Demanding increased wages and better treatment, UCSB personnel united in the Arbor yesterday to carry on the message of May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day.
About 100 spectators gathered in a circle at noon yesterday, surrounding speakers who voiced their concerns over UCSB’s treatment of its workers. The event was organized by the UCSB union coalition, which consists of the United Auto Workers, American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, University Professional and Technical Employees and the Coalition of University Employees. Participants hoisted signs and sported green AFSCME Local 3299 union shirts, displaying the slogan “Taking back our university – We make things happen!”
Organizer Julian Posadas said the coalition decided to hold the informational rally to express workers’ discontent with the university and gather support from students.
“Workers are agitated and upset,” Posadas said. “The UC is capable of helping us, but they haven’t yet. We need to express real issues with support from students.”
In 1886, a walkout that began on May 1 in support of an eight-hour workday turned deadly on May 4 when Chicago police killed several strikers in the Haymarket massacre. While May 1 is a national holiday in other countries, the United States has its own official Labor Day holiday, celebrated on the first Monday in September.
Ulysses Gonzalez, a second-year sociology major, also said the purpose of the rally was to inform students about workers’ conditions and issues.
“We need to spread awareness to students who don’t know what [UCSB employees] face,” Gonzalez said. “As the cost of living goes up, their wages need to go up. Students need to be part of the struggle. We are all a part of the same community.”
Gonzalez is part of the Student Labor Coalition, an organization which supports local employees in their struggle for increased pay and better working conditions. The student coalition rallied on behalf of subcontracted painters during the San Clemente housing dispute after the employees’ contractor, Ryan’s Painting, allegedly became increasingly late with payments. The coalition is currently supporting AFSCME in its on-going contract negotiations with the University of California.
Meanwhile, Silvia Marquez, a UCSB clerical employee, advocated the need for solidarity while speaking to the crowd at the rally.
“The key is being united on campus,” Marquez said. “It affects us all. The students aren’t aware of what’s going on in the background. We’re [UCSB employees] overworked and underpaid. The key thing is unity and being informed. That is the power. Unite!”